« The Virtues of a Second Blog | Main | de-woot, Redone »

Toni Morrison, Child Pornographer?

American Man Given 20 Years for Cartoons

[Dwight Whorley] who used a public computer at state offices to receive child pornography depicted in highly stylized cartoons will spend 20 years in prison.

I'm not into kiddie porn, but I thought the 1st Amendment protected all forms of speech. According to the linked article, there is a “federal law that the production or distribution of drawings or cartoons showing the sexual abuse of children.” I'm guessing | hoping Whorley will appeal his case all the way to SCOTUS, but something seems very wrong and very terrible in the United States today.

Yesterday, the Read-Johnson Scholar's Council met to talk about whether representative democracy is such a good system of government that it should be fostered in countries that have non-democratic forms of government. While the conversation did wheel about the beautiful Spring evening, I attempted to make a point that American representative democracy formerly (prior to 1955) depended upon a morally cohesive and well-informed (if not well-educated) populace. However, the erosion of moral values and critical thought by mass media has undermined the foundations of our democratic republic to such an extent that many Americans no longer understand what freedom really means outside of being free to go shopping.

American civil liberties are in serious jeopardy, and the case above proves it. It is very likely that no one is harmed in the production of cartoon drawings of sexual abuse. While repugnant, such representations amount to speech, to expression, vile as that expression might be. It is only a short step (if a further step need be taken at all) to saying representations of terrorist acts are a federal offense. How about representations of hate crimes? Does this make Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye contraband pornography?

In the following scene, Cholly Breedlove comes home drunk and encounters his pre-teen daughter, Pecola, washing the dishes. In a state of alcoholic stupor and paternal dysfunction, he sees Pecola's “foot scratching the back of her calf with her toe” and is reminded of “[t]he creamy toe of [his wife's] bare foot scratching a velvet leg,” something Pauline Breedlove did during her and Cholly's courtship (162). In the present moment, Cholly makes not for his wife's but his daughter's foot. As he does so, Cholly knocks Pecola off balance and the narrator explains that he then

raised his other hand to her hips to save her from falling. He put his head down and nibbled at the back of her leg. His mouth trembled at the firm sweetness of the flesh. [. . . .] The confused mixture of his memories of Pauline [Cholly's wife] and the doing of a wild and forbidden thing excited him, and a bolt of desire ran down his genitals, giving it length, and softening the lips of his anus. Surrounding all of this lust was a border of politeness. He wanted to fuck her—tenderly. [. . . .]

Removing himself from her was so painful to him he cut it short and snatched his genitals out of the dry harbor of her vagina. She appeared to have fainted. (162-163)

While there are substantial differences between the meaning of Pecola's victimization by her father in Morrison's novel and the sexual interest Whorley likely had in the illicit cartoons he downloaded, I do not believe the differences are so distinct that Whorley is guilty of a crime that demands he be deprived of his liberty. It defies my imagination that one can be jailed in the United States for adrawing. 1 end of article


1 Such legislation very likely targets the use of computers to produce photorealistic images and animations of sexual abuse. However, given that using computers to produce images does not necessarily harm people, it is not clear that such production should be illegal.

Work Cited

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Plume, 1970.